Monday, May 22, 2017

Vote for TLF Translation!

Today's post is just a quick message to thank everyone for their ongoing support. This year we've been nominated as one of the Top 100 Language Twitterers category in bab.la's Top 100 Language Lovers competition.

We'd really appreciate it if you'd show your support for us and our blog by clicking on the button below and voting for "TLF Translation".

Top Language Lovers 2017
 
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Thanks again for your ongoing support! Keep loving languages!

Monday, May 15, 2017

10 Ways to Dive into a Language Environment when Studying Abroad by Richard Nolan

Communication is a crucial part of our everyday living. Without communication, we wouldn’t be able to anything. Language is key when it comes to communicating. It’s therefore pertinent that we understand the language that we intend to communicate in.

At times, we find ourselves in an environment where we may not fully comprehend the language that people around us are using. It can be quite stressful since you can't do much and you end up feeling frustrated. For a student studying abroad, the feeling could be worse, especially if the language in which your teachers or lecturers are using is foreign to you.

Well, you needn't worry anymore. We're going to discuss some tips on how to learn a new language should you find yourself studying abroad. Different individuals have different learning styles. It's up to you to establish what works well for you. Check out these 10 ways and pick the ones that work for you:

1. Use Apps

The advancement of technology has brought about easy ways of doing and knowing things. This is mostly by the use of phone applications. There are a number of language learning applications like Duolingo and Memrise that you can use to learn new languages.

Some of these have audio so you have no excuse when it comes to pronunciation too.

This makes the use of applications a very easy method because you carry your phone around everywhere hence you can always have access to the application.

2. Take a Dictionary

This might look like an outdated and old-school way of learning a new language but it’s really helpful. Having a pocket dictionary gives you the ability to check any new vocabulary that you hear around and get to know its meaning. You can also use the dictionary to learn new words and even get to know how to use them in a sentence.

3. Enroll in a University/College Programme

Audio and online learning programs work well but they cannot be compared to a classroom setting. This is because there’s interaction in a classroom which makes it easy for someone to grasp a new language. Not all universities offer foreign languages but you can still apply for course in another university or college.

Learning a new language in college is interesting and interactive since you can practice what you learn with other classmates. The classroom setting also helps you learn quickly since you meet people who speak a different language. This will push you to use your new lingua franca. An added advantage of learning a new language in a university is that there will be up-to-date reference books available for you that you can use during your study.

4. One on One Learning / Private Lessons

The difference between a private lesson and a university lesson is the number of students involved and less of a classroom structure. In this case, the number of students will be minimal and instead of a classroom or lecture hall, a more informal setting will be involved.

The advantage of having private lessons is that they bring about the one on one interaction between the teacher. Therefore, the student can get all the attention that he/she might require. There is also some freedom that you don't get with a university class. The disadvantage is that costs more and you may not have up-to-date reading materials.

5. Buddy Programmes

Buddy programmes is more of an informal method of learning a new language. It involves an exchange of lessons with a foreign friend. This can be done online or you can meet up for a one in one session.


From this method, you can learn accents and slang of the language since you’re interacting with someone who is a native speaker of the language you want to learn.


This method is easier than reading from a book or listening to an instructor. Buddy programmes are free in terms of money but do cost a lot of time. This is because it’s a give and take situation where you also have to teach the other person your language and this requires a lot of patience.

6. Make Learning a Fun Activity

The conventional way of attending lessons, reading and writing may prove to be so boring and make you disinterested in learning the foreign language altogether. Well, the good news is that there are an unlimited number of activities that are enjoyable to engage in and that can assist you with your learning.

Frankly, there is something for everyone. For example, if you love listening to music, then you could learn a thing or two from listening to music in the language you want to learn. You could also watch a movie, go to football matches, concerts, play games etc. There are many things you could do.

7. Use the Language Whenever You Can

The trick to perfecting your language skills is to always practice speaking regardless of whether you’re perfect or not. That helps build your confidence and makes you more comfortable reading, writing, or communicating in the language. It’s crucial to be confident in your learning.

Always incorporating new vocabulary in your speech is an excellent way of learning a new language. Why? Because you get to familiarize yourself with how different words fit into different contexts.

8. Have a Go-To Place That Helps

We all have our favorite hangout spots where we go whenever we need to relax or get something to eat. These spots will help you familiarize with the people of the country you’re in while at the same time improve on your mastery of the language. If you go to restaurants or gyms, you’ll get to meet different people, listen to them speak and ultimately end up being fluent yourself.

9. Read! Write! Speak!

The only way to master any language is by constantly using it to communicate. Be it through reading, writing, or speaking. Reading materials based on the language that you’re learning is important as it improves on your understanding. Writing and speaking allow you to practice using the language. You get to understand what words are used under different scenarios.
You also get to identify what mistakes you’re making and work on improving on them.

10. Avoid Using English

English is more of a universal language, therefore spoken in a majority of countries worldwide. The problem with this is that if you study abroad, you may fall into the trap of using English and fail to learn the new language. Try to use the foreign language as it is the only way to learn effectively. If you insist on using English to communicate, then you may as well give up learning a foreign language.

Be careful of getting comfortable using English as you may end up not seeing the point in learning the language.

Learning a new language may appear to be difficult but it’s quite simple if you're dedicated. Passion and drive are very much needed. These tips will help you out. Write your daily schedule to incorporate the foreign language learning tips that you find will work for you. All the best!

Richard Nolan is a writer and a private tutor, sharing his experience in spheres of  writing, blogging, entrepreneurship and psychology. Richard writes for numerous blogs and gives useful tips for bloggers and students.  Follow him on Twitter and Facebook.

Monday, May 8, 2017

8 Tips for Those Who Find Learning a Language Difficult

Learning a foreign language can be really difficult. It's probably even more difficult if you're surrounded by gifted learners making it look really easy and speaking like it's their native language. Does it feel like you aren't progressing as quickly as you should? Are you desperate to become bilingual? Then here are some tips to help you!

1: Immerse Yourself

This doesn't necessarily mean moving to a country where the language is spoken! You can immerse yourself in plenty of ways. Here are a few that I find useful...

Put flashcards all over your house to help you learn new vocabulary.

Make sure your phone is in the language you're trying to learn. If you're like me, your face is probably glued to your phone most of the time. Consider it free language learning on the go!

Read the news in the language you're learning, listen exclusively to music in that language, and only watch TV and films that will help you.

You'll be amazed at the phrases and vocabulary that you'll learn by doing just a few of these. You'll probably also learn a lot about the places where your new language is spoken since language and culture go hand in hand!

2: Go To Classes

If you've been studying at home using things like Duolingo and Rosetta Stone but you've only picked up a few new words and phrases, perhaps it's time to learn a foreign language with language lessons.

While online language learning can be beneficial, signing up to language courses means you'll have a teacher in front of you who can help you grasp the grammar. Furthermore, learning a new language with others in a classroom can be a great way to meet people and have lots of fun!

3: Get a Private Tutor

If classes aren't working, then maybe you need one on one tuition. If you want to learn French. spending a few hours a week studying and practicing with a native speaker will help you develop your language skills on put you on the right track towards fluency.

Remember, you should always work with somebody who teaches, not just somebody who can speak the language!

4: Go To Language Exchanges

If you live in a large or diverse city where people speak lots of different languages, there'll probably be language exchanges where you can learn a foreign language.

A language exchange is where you meet native speakers of the language you're learning in order to practice. What's the catch? You also have to help other people learning the language you speak. They're great if you want to speak your second language at a conversational level!

5: Change Things If They Aren't Working

Are you doing all of the above and still struggling? If you've been studying at home, consider changing the resources you've been using and rediscover how to learn a language.

Have you been taking lessons for what seems like ages but still finding things difficult? You should tell your teacher or what you're finding difficult, they'll probably be happy to adapt their approach.

If nothing seems to be working, perhaps it's time to move to the country where the language is spoken. Personally, I find immersion the best way to learn a new language and if you're surrounded by it every second of every day, you'll be fluent in no time!

6: Don't Compare Yourself to Others

Every language learner is different and needs to go at their own speed. A lot of people who think they're struggling with a language. In fact, they just think they are because they're comparing their own language learning experience to others, often those who learn languages with ease.

Don't get demotivated by what you read online. Stories of people learning their first foreign language are rarely published. Instead, you'll read about somebody who was once a monolingual English speaker but now thanks to their special learning process, they've gained proficiency in Mandarin, Portuguese, Arabic, etc.

Just remember: These are the rare special cases, don't get demotivated by them!

7: Don't Dwell on Mistakes

When you learn a foreign language, you will make mistakes. In fact, people make mistakes in their mother tongue all the time, so they're even more likely in their second language. Use your mistakes to help you learn, not to tell yourself you're terrible at languages!

8: Be Proud of Your Progress

As I said at the beginning, learning languages is difficult! Every time you learn something, give yourself a pat on the back! Focus on the progress you make, rather than the journey you have ahead of you. This will help motivate you. If you're motivated, you will learn!

Do you have any other tips for those being demoralized by learning a language? Tell us your advice in the comments below!

Monday, May 1, 2017

Languages Online: The Best of April 2017

There was some fantastic language content last month. Let's have a look back at the best language and culture content from the last month!

10 - How Do Babies Become Bilingual? on SciShow Pysch

While this is a psychology YouTube channel, this month it included some linguistics content. This is an interesting video about child language acquisition and how their brains work when they learn a second language. Watch the video below:



If you're struggling to learn French language and grammar, you should make your life a little easier with these fantastic tips from Benny the Irish polyglot! This article is highly recommended for any French learner but a lot of these tips could be used to gain proficiency in many different languages. Either way, you'll be fluent in no time!


If you're like us, you're probably already a self-confessed linguaholic. However, if you have any doubts, this article should clear everything up for you!


Since we love languages, learning them doesn't bother us. However, not everyone acquiring a new language finds it fun. In these instances, games can be a great way to make them enjoyable. Not convinced? If you want to learn a language or if you teach one, you should check out this article on Eurolinguiste and see how games are a crucial part of language instruction.


With the UK going back to the polls on 8 June, the political mud is being slung. Boris Johnson took one of the first swings by calling Jeremy Corbyn (Leader of the Labour Party) "a mutton-headed old mugwump". But what is it? I have no idea and I'm a native speaker of English! Thankfully, you can find out in this article!


This article is great if you're learning the language of love and looking for more media. If your linguistic journey starts to plateau or your language courses need a boost, exposing yourself to media in the target language is a great way to gain fluency.


While there is no single answer, this article provides some fascinating insights into which languages might be easier for you to learn. If you're set on learning a new language, you should choose to learn a language from this article!


If English isn't your native language, this article's for you. Those of us who speak English as our first language love phrasal verbs and if you want to learn to speak the English language fluently, here are 5 phrasal verbs you should make part of your vocabulary.

In my opinion, this might be the most important language debate taking place in the UK. Like most English pronunciation, it depends on your dialect! If you're still wondering how to pronounce "scone", you should check this article out.


Finally, this month's most popular language content came from The Guardian. Bilinguals apparently find some of our ruder phrases easier to say. Why is that? Find out by reading this fascinating article.

Were there any great articles this month that our readers would love? Tell us about them in the comments!

Monday, April 24, 2017

How Learning a Language Is Like Driving a Car

Are you a master of the roads but not a master of the rolled rs? Then today's post is for you. I've noticed in the past that getting behind the wheel of a car is a lot like learning a language. Here's a few reasons how...

You won't pick it up straight away

Driving and learning languages aren't easy. Your brain is doing a lot of things and learning to do a lot of things differently. Don't expect to be a master from day one. Just be patient and go at your own speed.

Take your time and soon you'll be flying!
You'll stall

Making mistakes and getting stuck are all parts of any learning process. Just like you stall a car, sometimes you'll be half way into a sentence and forget a word or not know how to finish your sentence. Relax! Just take a breath, pump the brakes, and start over. Everybody knows you're just learning, they're not going to kill you for it!

Adults are better at it

That's why the older you are, the cheaper your insurance is! You'll often hear that children have the mind of a sponge and can pick up languages in the blink of an eye. However, that's not necessarily true.

It's been shown that in some ways, adults are even better than children. Adults already know a language and they can use this to help them learn. They don't tend to master pronunciation as well as children but there's nothing wrong with a bit of an accent.

If you never get behind the wheel, you'll never understand how to do it

If you're always a passenger, you probably think you know what everything in a car does. But have you ever driven? Try and remember the first time you got behind the wheel. Were you an immediate expert thanks to a decade and a half of being a passenger? I doubt it! Did you get better by actually driving? Of course you did.

Language is exactly the same. You can study for years and never really use your language. You won't see much benefit in your language learning until you actually start creating language, both by writing and by speaking.

It'll take you places

Learning a language opens doors. Just like owning a car gives you the freedom to go where you want, speaking another language will take you plenty of places. You'll have better career prospects and another skill to put on your CV. You'll be able to meet and speak to people that you wouldn't necessarily know before. The world is your oyster!

Monday, April 17, 2017

How to Motivate Yourself to Learn a Language by Francesco D'Alessio

Motivating yourself to learn something new can be daunting.

Learning a new language can be very scary when you are just getting started, let alone going further into the language. Everything from meeting native speakers to travelling might frighten and demotivate you. Motivation is something you need whenever you start something new. Whether it's a new job or a new project, or even a hobby, motivation is key to persistence and achieving your goals. 

We’ve put together a few recommendations for how to maintain your language learning when things get tough.

Picking a language to learn

One of our recommendations is to pick a language that you are interested in. It can be rough when you start learning a language but being passionate about the language can help to drive you through harsh times. 

Try and pick a language whose culture you enjoy, or a language that's spoken somewhere you'd like to travel to and you like the sound of. All of these will help to form a better drive to conquer the language. 

Take the language-learning plunge.
How to get motivated

Motivation is very individual. Something that motivates one person, won’t motivate another. 

Despite there not being a recipe for everyone, here are some of the best ways to learn a language. These recommendations come from top language learners and teachers who have mastered multiple language and continue to pick up even more languages.

Small chunks — Learning in small segments might be a better method of acquiring a language. The short bursts of learning across your day can provide you with more actionable learning notes to keep refreshed as you go about your day. Whether it’s 10-minutes of French verbs before bed or listening to a podcast before bed, all of these small chunks can make up the bigger picture of your language learning journey.

Exposure — Being exposed to a new language can keep you interested in the language. Watching a movie, or a podcast can really inspire you and increase you chances of adopting the language in your day-to-day routine. Exposure is a great way to learn and can become a very effective learning tool. Another trick is to find a celebrity you like that speaks the language and watch videos of them speaking, it’ll inspire you for sure. 

Persistence —  With the majority of things in life, persistence pays off. Maintaining a daily language-learning routine will help improve the chances of you continuing and practising it in real-life situations. When it’s getting tough, avoid ditching the efforts and write down as many reasons to why you should learn the language, this’ll help motivate you. Be persistent when you focus on a new language! 

Your sole focus — Many people try learning two or three languages at once. You might find someone who can do this but chances are that one sole language at a time is more than enough. Make sure that the language your main focus to help improve the chances of you conquering it. 

Alongside motivation there are many other variables, like your day to day situations. Remember that if you are willing to keep everything going, you’ll be able to fine tune your efforts towards acquiring a new languages. Don’t stress too much!

Avoiding Procrastinating

A classic example of studying involves some form of procrastination, whether it’s visiting Facebook for 10-minutes or making yourself the 5th tea of the hour. Procrastinating is something many language learners will probably relate to. 

Procrastinating can sometimes be valuable when it comes to learning, as it gives your brain a break from all of the intense studying going on. Planned procrastination is always a good tactic to implement when you are learning a language. 

But there is such thing as “productive procrastination” which when used in the right way can increase your exposure to a language whilst retaining the steady pace of learning a language. It might sound impossible but can be done. 

Try using YouTube or Netflix to improve your language skills. Flick on a few minutes of a Narcos episode on Netflix or even a YouTube tutorial for your Spanish. These multimedia approaches feel like avoiding the work, but they all contribute to your study of language. This will give you a break from the intensity of pen and paper and keep you exposure to the language strong. 

All of these methods have been used by learners and have proven results. Remember that all your studying and routine is individual to you, so making sure 

Let us know if you struggle with motivation when it comes to learning a language, we’d love to hear your stories and whether you found anything helpful when it came to moving forward and making progress.

Francesco D’Alessio works as a Community Manager at FlashSticks, the creators of new language learning application, FlashAcademy. He loves to learn new things, runs his own YouTube channel on technology and apps and works with a few other tech startups too.



Monday, April 10, 2017

Revisiting Why "Mama" and "Papa" by Evan Defrancesco

Have you ever wondered why all languages seemingly have more or less the same terms for ‘mother’ and ‘father’?  In 1959, American anthropologist G.P. Murdock looked at the language data from his study of over 500 world cultures and wondered the same question.  Since he didn't have much training in linguistics, he opened the question up to the wider community.

The linguist Roman Jakobson took up the question and published his answer in the groundbreaking paper ‘Why “Mama” and “Papa”.’ Kinship terms like ‘mama’ and ‘papa’, Jakobson argued, weren’t passed down through the ages from some proto-human language; rather, they were reinvented by each child, as they began to explore their phonetic capabilities.

Nearly 60 years later, is Jakobson’s conclusion still as robust as it once was? Andrew Nevins, a professor of linguistics at University College London, is attempting to answer that question and more in ‘Revisiting Mama and Papa.’  Are there patterns that Jakobson missed? What kinds of combinations of sounds are allowed in a kinship term? What patterns of sounds exist for relations beyond just the mother and father?

For this project to work, though, we need your help! We’re trying to collect data to match Murdock’s original samples from over 500 languages, and we can’t do it all on our own.  We need native speakers and language enthusiasts to help us find out what the kinship terms in all these languages are.  We’ve created a survey – The Great Language Muster – to help collect the data, and we’re hoping that you’ll contribute to it! Your participation is vital, and we intend to acknowledge that by making all the data open source at the end of the collection period.  Good science happens when good data are shared!  

The scope of this project is huge, and it has the potential to begin to answer some exciting questions in linguistics, linguistic anthropology and cognitive science.  We hope you’ll choose to be a part of it!


Evan DeFrancesco is a postgraduate student in linguistics at University College London, serving as Andrew Nevin’s research assistant.  He’s never met a word that he didn’t like, but he couldn’t care less about the Oxfotrd comma. When not thinking about syllable structure, Evan enjoys whitewater kayaking and writing about himself in the third-person.  He tweets about linguistics and trivialities:

Monday, April 3, 2017

Languages Online: The Best of March 2017

Today we're looking back at some of the best online content from last month. Here are our top 10 language articles from March 2017:


There are plenty of excuses we give ourselves in order to hamper our language-learning journey. In this article, Benny Lewis tells us the common excuses made by language learners and why we should ignore them!


In another article from Fluent in 3 Months, James Granahan tells us how to create a cheat sheet, what it's good for, questions to include, and some of the "get out of jail free cards" you can use. A definite read for anyone just starting on their language-learning journey.

Photograph: David Elsworth / Alamy/Alamy

Words come and go. The words from this article are definitely those that are going. Those of a certain age, myself included, will be a little saddened at the loss of some of these words. However, I'm not going to lose any sleep over "golly", "gosh", and "blimey" and "gadzooks" falling out of favour.


Another one of the excuses we use in order to avoid learning a language. Are you ever too old to learn a language? We don't think so, and neither did Ronald Williams, who started learning Welsh when he was 70 (he's 85 now!).


When you learn a language, do you also learn to better understand the feelings of others? This article by Eric M. Ruiz is an interesting read.


By looking at the habits of Duolingo users, Burr Settle and Masato Hagiwara ascertained three ways to become a successful language learner. If you're learning a language, you should take note of these habits and try to replicate them.


When we're not making excuses, we may be making huge mistakes. This article by Agnieszka Murdoch includes 6 of the mistakes that we need to avoid if we're to have any chance of becoming fluent in the languages we're learning.


This radio segment from Indiana Public Broadcasting Stations has a look at how a programme in a high school in Indiana is helping Burmese students to learn English as well as more about the country they're living in.


This article by Tessa Wong tells the fascinating story of language revival. The Kristang language, which is a creole of Portuguese and Malay, has been in decline since it became economically irrelevant for its speakers.


Fun in French? Sexy in Spanish? Do you feel like your personality changes depending on the languages you're speaking? If so, you should definitely read this article by Nicola Prentis!

Were there any interesting language articles from March that we should have included? Tell us about them in the comments below! We'd love to read them!

Monday, March 27, 2017

British or American English: 8 Common Spelling Mistakes by Lucy Benton

If your job involves a lot of writing, you've probably heard about the differences in UK and US spelling. There are plenty of reasons why Word has different versions of English and recommends you install proofreading tools to help you to avoid mistakes.

Every time you write in a non-default spelling, it reverts the text to the default one, which can create some problems for those who typed it.

To avoid making mistakes in US and UK spelling, you should get up to speed with these most common mistakes.

The centre of London
#1: endings “re” – “er”

Examples:
centre/center
theatre/theater

For some, writing these words exactly how they sound makes more sense. However, British English has different spelling.

#2: endings “yse” – “yze”

Examples:
analyse/analyze
paralyse/paralyze

“yze” is the preferred option for North America while “yse” is common in the UK and Australia. The use of the American spelling is more popular in the literature, as shown in this Google Books ngram.

#3: Double “l”

Examples:
travelling/traveling
modelling/modeling
cancelled/canceled

Many people make mistakes with the doubled consonant. British English uses doubles the “l” while American typically uses one in a number of words. 

#4: “ence” and “ense” 

Examples:
defence/defense
licence/license

To avoid this common mistake, put “ense” in American English and “ence” in British English.

#5: “ogue” or “og”

Examples:
dialogue/dialog
analogue/analog

Although the ending “logue” is also sometimes occurs in the U.S., the “log” spelling is more common. If you're visiting the UK, you should only use “ogue”. 

#6: “ise” or “ize”

Examples:
organise/organize
realise/realize

Much like “yse” and “yze”, “ise” is preferred in the UK while the rest of the world prefers “ize,”.  While confusing, you should go with “ise” if you’re writing for UK readers.

#7: spelling words in form without “e”

Examples:
loveable/lovable
moveable/movable
likeable/likable

Some people commonly confuse the spelling of words that have forms without “e” like in American English. The Brits, however, stay true to using it.

#8: irregular verbs

Examples:
wet/wetted
dived/dove
smelt/smelled
burnt/burned

Some verbs, including wet, fit, and dive, are regular in British version and irregular in American. As a result, many people make mistakes while using them in sentences. For example, “she dived into the lake” would sound weird for Americans because they are used to say “she dove into the lake.” 
If you avoid using these common mistakes between American and British English, your writing will be far more appropriate for local audiences. Good luck!

Lucy Benton is high skilled editor, proofreader at BestEssayTips, who enjoys sharing tips and stories. She studied Creative and Professional Writing at the Maharishi University of Management. If you’re interested in working with Lucy , you can find her on Facebook.

Monday, March 20, 2017

The Great Vowel Shift: One Reason Why English Spelling is Weird

Whether you're an English native speaker or just learning the language, you must've noticed that English spelling is absolutely mad at times. Why doesn't meat rhyme with great, for example?

One reason for this is something known as the Great Vowel Shift, which took place between the mid-14th century until the end of the 15th century.


If you spoke English in the 1300s, bite sounded like beat does today. The word meet sounded like martboot like boat, and boat sounded a bit like bought. In fact, during the Great Vowel Shift, every long vowel in Middle English changed its pronunciation.


Pronunciation tends to change over time in  most languages without causing too many problems. However, around the time of the Great Vowel Shift, the printing press had made its way to England and was in the process of standardising English spelling.

Some English spelling follows how words were pronounced in Old and Middle English and wasn't really changed to keep up with Modern English. Though some, such as room, no longer uses its Middle English spelling, roum.

At a time when people finally decided how words should be spelled, the language underwent a significant pronunciation change.

Think of it as getting your passport photo taken and then immediately shaving off all your hair (or growing it, if you're bald)!

Monday, March 13, 2017

Mezzofanti: A Master of Languages

Wednesday marks the date when Giuseppe Caspar Mezzofanti died. He was famous for being one of the world's most prolific polyglots, supposedly mastering dozens of languages during his lifetime.

Mezzofanti was born in Bologna on 19 September 1774. As a child he learnt Greek and Latin words he overheard from a priest's lessons. When the priest found out, he put Mezzofanti into a religious school and later exposure to Spanish-speaking priests helped him learn Spanish. During that time he managed to master his Greek and Latin as well as pick up Arabic, Hebrew, German, French, and a few other languages.

Upon completing his studies, he became the professor of Arabic at Bologna University and was ordained as a priest. When he lost his job for not swearing his allegiance to the Cisalpine Republic, he started tutoring rich families.

When the Austrians arrived in Bologna to drive out Napoleon, Mezzofanti learnt Hungarian, Polish, Czech, and Russian from the soldiers at the hospital where he worked.

Supposedly he taught himself a language overnight when he found out that two criminals needed confession. He continued to learn different languages and eventually spoke nearly 40 languages fluently. He was also familiar with many other languages.

While the rumour mill and hearsay may have exaggerated stories of Mezzofanti, any language learner should appreciate that he managed to learn a lot about foreign languages without ever leaving his country!

Monday, March 6, 2017

Languages Online: The Best of February 2017

Usually at the start of the month we do "languages in the news". However, since there is so much fantastic language content online, we're now calling it "Languages Online". Let's get started with the best stuff from February.

Cambridge University Press had a fascinating article on "uptalk", what it is, what it's for, and why we use it. If you'd like to read more about "uptalk", you can read the Cambridge article here.

The Guardian's website had an infuriating article on the office jargon we love to hate. If you have enough bandwidth, you can read the article here. There was also an interesting article on Eight words that reveal the sexism at the heart of the English language.

The Independent brought us interesting insights into "alternative facts" and the malleability of meaning in languages. If you'd like to read more on the subject, click here.

As usual, Fluent In 3 Months (FI3M) had plenty of great articles. Some of our favourites from Benny included articles on excuses languages learners makecommon Skype language exchange mistakes, and German words we need in English.

There were also articles on FI3M from other writers on subjects including: how to improve your writingtop tips and reasons to learn Italian, and how to create a language hacker's cheat sheet.

Finally, Eurolinguiste brought us plenty of great blog posts. We particularly enjoyed Shannon's article on getting the most out of your language lessons and the hard truth, there are no shortcuts to learning a language!

Did you read any interesting content on languages last month? If so, share them with us in the comments below!

Monday, February 27, 2017

Which Languages Win the Most Oscars?

Since last night was the Oscars, we're having a look at how different languages and countries have performed in the Academy Awards' "Best Foreign Language Film" category over the years. Scroll down to have a look through our infographic.



Which foreign language films has the Academy overlooked? Is there a particular language you feel should have been nominated more? Tell us your thoughts and give us some foreign language film recommendations in the comments below!

Monday, February 20, 2017

Onomatopoeia and Cool Ways to Describe Sounds


Onomatopoeia is one of my favourite things in language. Aside from being a great word in itself, onomatopoeia are words that sound like the noise they describe. For example, the word miaow (to English speakers) sounds like the noise a cat makes. In fact, a lot of animal sounds in English are onomatopoeia. Bees buzz, dogs woof, and frogs ribbit, for example.

Remember the Batman series in the 1960s with Adam West? They used them all the time to hide impacts during "fight" scenes!

English a rather rich language. However, if you're writing a comic book, you can't use too much space elaborately describing sound effects like an author would in a novel! This is when describing sounds gets really interesting.

While you may be familiar with some classic "sound effects" like bang, pow, and blam, you mightn't have imagined sounds like thwipp, when Spiderman launches a string of web, or snikt, when Wolverine's claws pop out.

Mlem, mlem, mlem!
Words like schlik can be used to describe metal on metal when sharpening knives, for example. Mlem describes a tongue (usually a cat's) lapping up water whereas blep describes sticking your tongue out!

A dog wagging its tail could be described as fwip fwip fwip and your heartbeat as lub-dub-lub-dub. While we usually knock on a door, what noise does a door make when it closes? How about wumpth? Pretty good, right?

In addition to these creative uses of letters and phonemes, comic artists will also ensure that the words look like the sounds they're supposed to represent. How do they do this? With font, size, and colouring.

Are there any cool sounds from comics that I missed? Feel free to add them in the comments and tell what they're describing!

Monday, February 13, 2017

Polysemy and Homonymy: Words and their Meanings

I find words and all their different meanings really interesting. Whenever looking a word up in the dictionary, there is rarely just one explanation or definition. Sometimes all the meanings are similar and sometimes the meanings seem to have absolutely nothing in common. In linguistics, these meanings can be classified as either polysemy and homonymy.

Similar Meanings

Polysemy is when a word has a variety of different meanings that are etymologically related. Consider the word soft, for example. In Old English it meant "gentle" and "mild-natured". This etymology led "soft" being used to describe pillows, voices, drinks, and even people.

The word man is another example of polysemy. We can use the word to either describe the entire human race, "Man, not beast", to specify a male, "Man, not woman", or specify an adult "Man, not boy".

Different Meanings

When a word is written the same but has various different and unrelated meanings, we call this homonymy. You may have heard of homonyms before as words with different meanings but that are written the same.

For example, what does bow mean? This word has different meanings and pronunciations. When pronounced as /bəʊ/ (to rhyme with "low"), it refers to the device used to play a violin, or the thing used to fire an arrow, or a type of knot in a ribbon or shoelace.

When the word is pronounced as /baʊ/ (rhyming with "how"), it can either mean to lower your head or bend your body as a sign of respect or to thank an audience after a show. It can also be a noun that refers to the front part of a ship.

Monday, February 6, 2017

Sound Symbolism and Why Spiky Sounds Spiky

If you're familiar with onomatopoeia, you'll know that words like bang, splash, and beep all imitate the sounds they refer to. Do you think spiky sounds spikier than fluffy? If so, this could be due to a phenomenon known as sound symbolism.

Sound symbolism suggests that the sounds are used in certain words because the phonemes themselves carry meaning and it there are often groups words with similar meanings, similar spelling, or letters or phonemes in common.

For example, a lot of words referring to housing in English begin with the letter "h". Home, house, hut, hovel, habitat, etc. Of course, this doesn't necessarily occur in other languages. Maybe we create a word and then create similar words to describe similar things.

When these groups of words with similar sounds and meanings occur, it is known as clustering. This will occur differently across different languages but related languages tend to share similar clusters.

Which is kiki and which is bouba?
It has also been shown that we apply certain meanings to fictional words based on how they sound. An experiment conducted in the Canary Islands (with Spanish speakers) showed participants two shapes, a jagged one and a rounded one. Participants were then asked which one was takete and baluba. The results indicated that most said that takete was jagged and baluba was rounded.

When this experiment was repeated with English speakers and Tamil speakers with the words kiki and bouba, the result were pretty astonishing. 95 to 98% of participants put kiki with the jagged shape and bouba with the round one!

This suggested that we don't just give words meaning then use similar sounds to describe similar things but that we create words in a non-arbitrary way based on our perceptions of sounds. This became known as the bouba/kiki effect.

What do you think? Do sounds carry meaning before we create words or do we give words meaning first and then decide to use similar sounds to describe similar things? Tell us your thoughts in the comments below!

Monday, January 30, 2017

Languages in the News: January 2017

As it's the end of the month, it's time to look back at some of the best language stories from around the web.

Our first two articles are from the Oxford Dictionaries blog. There was a fascinating article on how current languages affect dead languages, which you can read here.

The second article from Oxford was on mistakes made by those learning English as a foreign language. If you're looking for ways to improve your English and avoid some of these mistakes, read the article here.

Our next stories are from The Guardian. The first is a fascinating podcast on universal grammar which you can listen to here.

There was also an interesting piece on some English words that you either really hate or use all the time. For Justin Myers' list of words that he thinks should be banned, click here.

Photo by Spencer Platt/Getty Images
Did you really think we'd get to the end of the month without a story about the new US president? Vox reported on a linguistic analysis of how President Trump speaks during press conferences. If you want a better understanding of his speeches, read the article here.

Atlas Obscura had a fantastic article on Canadians and the word "eh". If you'd like to find out what "eh" does, why Canadians use it, and where it comes from, you should read the article here.

The BBC also brought us an article on how babies can remember their birth language. If you'd like to find out more, you can read the story here.

The last two articles we loved were from Fluent in 3 Months. You should definitely check out some excellent reasons to get involved with the German language here. Finally, there was a great article about spies and languages! If you ever wondered how spies get so good at an accent so that nobody knows they're foreign, read the article here.

Was their any other language content this month that we missed? Tell us about them in the comments below!

Monday, January 23, 2017

Why You Need Specialized Court Interpreters by Lucy Justina

Interpreters mediate conversations between two people speaking in different languages. They have to have a thorough command of both languages and understand what is being said. They also have to quickly communicate the same idea to the other person and carefully choose the right set of words.
Interpreters are quite different from translators as they work in real time and don't get the chance to review their output! 

Interpreters are needed for many different situations. However, you may need a specialized interpreter for specific jobs. Here are some essentials for any court interpreter: 

Language Skills

This is the minimum requirement for any interpreter. A knowledge of both languages and some general vocabulary. In addition to the general vocabulary, court interpreters also require an understanding of the vocabulary used in court. Any deviation from the true legal meaning could pose a huge problem in the court proceedings.

Court interpreters also have to conduct sight interpretation. This is in when legal documents written in one language are read out by the interpreter in another language. 

Confidentiality

A lot of confidential information is disclosed during legal proceedings. This means that court interpreters are required to observe a strict code of confidentiality. Interpreters shouldn't ever disclose any of the confidential information they hear in the court outside of it.

Accuracy

The documents and words spoken in the courtroom are very important. Interpreters should interpret accurately, clearly, and never expand or reduce content as they see fit. Wrongly or partially-interpreted content can hugely affect the outcome of the proceedings.

It is the interpreter’s duty to convey exactly what is being said and not read between the lines. This is  only only if they remain detached from both the parties involved in the case. In order to offer unbiased interpretation, the interpreter should avoid meeting with the parties before or during the proceedings. They shouldn't even consider the ruling of the case.

Qualifications

Since a court interpreter's job can be very different from that of a regular interpreter, it's essential that they complete the appropriate training and are certified. There are court certifications, training accredited by judicial bodies, and many institutes that offer both training and certification for court interpreters. Court interpreters must be both qualified and certified.

A court interpreter needs to know much more than just the two languages they interpret. Finding the right one will make your life so much easier.

Lucy is a freelance blogger. She likes learning by doing new things and sharing her knowledge through blogs.

Monday, January 16, 2017

5 Unusual Ways to Learn a Language

Most people know the traditional ways to learn a language like studying grammar and practising speaking either with natives or in a classroom environment. However, there are plenty of other ways to learn languages that you might be overlooking. Here are a few of my favourites.

1: Change The Language on Your Devices

Nowadays it's very common to have mobile phones and computers. If you have one of these devices, you should definitely make sure that your phone or computer are in the language that you're learning.

Wine bottles always have some
text on the label. Now you have
an excuse!
2: Always Read the Label

If you've moved to the target country and are going for full immersion, don't forget that almost everything you buy is an opportunity for exposure to the language.

3: Eavesdrop

While it's not very polite, if you hear anybody speaking the language you're trying to learn, you should probably try to listen to them. If you're confident, it might be your opportunity to even strike up a conversation.

4: Subtitles

You should already be watching as much TV as possible in your target language. However, if you can't find programming in the target language, you should at least get the subtitles in your target language.

5: Play Games

Either video games or board games are great for learning foreign languages. Focus on role-playing games which tend to have either a lot of text or dialogue and rely on you understanding information in order to progress. You can also try playing social board games, such as werewolf, which involve a lot of speaking.

Do you know of any unusual ways to learn a language? Tell us your ideas in the comments below.

Monday, January 9, 2017

5 Tips for Learning a Language in 2017

When it comes to bucket lists and new year's resolutions, learning a language is one of the most common. We're already over a week into 2017 and perhaps you're starting to struggle with your resolution of learning a new language. Whether this is your first attempt at learning a foreign language or you just feel like learning another, these tips should help make 2017 a success!

1: Want to learn the language

If you can, pick a language that you find interesting. Think long and hard about why you want to learn the language. If you have no interest in the language you're learning, you'll end up fighting an uphill battle. Learn about where the language is spoken, its culture, and the people who speak it, this should help you become interested in learning the language.

Libraries have internet access... and books.
2: Practise reading

There are plenty of online resources, webpages, and retailers where you can get reading material in almost any language in the world. Find articles and literature in your target language and get reading! Remember that there are also tonnes of online dictionaries and forums of other language learners for when you get stuck.

3: Train your ears

Fully immerse yourself in your target language by listening to it as often as possible. Living in a country where the language is spoken is a great way to do this. However, it's not often feasible for people to move to learn a new language. Instead, try listening to the radio, podcasts, music, or audio books in your target language either while at home or on the go.

4: Find people who speak the language and talk to them

This is probably the most beneficial of our resolutions. However, it's also probably the difficult to achieve. If you live in a fairly large city, you might be able to find speakers of the language, teachers, or classes. Otherwise, use the internet to reach out to speakers or teachers of the language you want to learn.

5: Set achievable goals

If this is your first time learning another language, don't expect to be speaking like a native any time soon. Everyone learns a language differently and progresses at different rates. Get to know how quickly you learn and work to your strengths. Try something simple that you can do when you begin and when you get into your rhythm you can begin to challenge yourself.

I hope learning a language in 2017 is going well! If you have any other suggestions, feel free to add them to the comments below!

Monday, January 2, 2017

The Best of 2016

With the new year in already under way, here are our favourite language news pieces and our favourite posts from the blog!
Best of the Web

(Jan Thijs/Paramount Pictures)









(Jan Thijs/Paramount Pictures)

Best of the Blog











If there were any news stories you think we missed, tell us about them in the comments below!